Blas Arévalos

Blas Arévalos

Died of HIV/AIDS (By Hugo Vigray)

Blas Arevalos is from High Refuge Ministry, an organization that supports victims of HIV/AIDS. He has dodged death now for 7 years. From the time he knew that he had AIDS, he gave the whole situation to God. His dream was to see his daughter reach her 15th birthday, a dream that came true for him. Now he dreams of seeing his grandchildren someday. But an AIDS diagnosis is never encouraging…

Blas Arevalos knew what it was to live a careless life, and knew the apparent happiness that comes with living with no boundaries. He traveled into the world of drugs and, while being married and having a young daughter, had an affair with a lover who swore to love him “till death”. She, also being married, was left a widow when her husband died of a “rare cancer” – or at least that is what she told Blas at the moment.

Later, she admitted that she was also dying of the same “strange” cancer, and soon after it took her life. It was not long after that Blas’ whole world came crashing down. He had been experiencing dangerous amount of weight loss, and did some tests to figure out what the cause was. The last test he took was the “test Elisa”, which indicates if a person has the HIV virus. The result came back positive. He then realized that the “strange cancer” his mistress had died from was actually not cancer at all. He had AIDS and immediately his whole being was covered by an umbrella of shame and hopelessness. With his test results in hand, he felt the heavy weight of defeat. It was the end. “That morning, I don’t even remember if it was hot or cold”.

“I grabbed my test results and left. When I went out into the street the first thought that came to my mind was that no one should ever find out that I had AIDS. So I said ‘I’m not going home – in fact, I’m never returning’ ”. He only had 800 Guaranies (about $0.40) but was ready to use it to take him as far away as possible.

“As I got on the bus, I said to myself ‘I’m going to commit suicide’, because I had no other alternative. I didn’t want anyone to know that I had AIDS…” His determination to commit suicide was set, but he didn’t know how he would carry it out. After thinking about it for a while, it occurred to him that he could get off the bus and throw himself in front of any vehicle coming at full speed. “Then they will say that I died from some accident”, he thought. However, something in his mind turned back to God. He recalls praying to God, “God, I know that you exist. But I will commit suicide unless at this moment you give me some reason to live…” In his loneliness and defeat, without knowing what he was waiting for or if God would show him anything, he waited for a sign from God right there in the bus.

“In that very moment, from the very back of the bus, I heard someone calling out ‘Laura!’. And then I remembered: my only daughter’s name is Laura. So right then and there, I decided: ‘God, you have spoken to me, so I will live.’ When I chose life, I knew that there was still a huge task ahead of me: to confront my wife, and tell her what was happening to me.”

But when the time came to tell her, his fear was just too great, and he couldn’t work up the courage. What he said was that he had cancer, a terminal cancer. “That night we cried, my wife, daughter, and I. But I cried the most, because I knew the truth…” he remembers, as his eyes filled with tears.

Three days later, he looked in the mirror and saw how very little was left of him. He had spots on his feet and head, and scratched them constantly; his hair was life-less, and was falling out in bunches. His fingernails were white, and came off when he pulled on them, but he couldn’t even feel any pain. “That day I stood in front of the mirror, naked and depressed at what I had become.” But he had made the decision to fight death. He went to the doctor and asked for the medicine he needed. I said “Doctor, I need that medicine” But the cost was high and I had no money. The doctor then told me about the National Program to fight AIDS and that they might be able to provide what I needed. “I want to know though, what in particular gave you the desire to live?” the doctor asked. And I told him, “I want to live for my daughter.” And the doctor told me, “That is a good reason to live, Blas, for your children…” However, this fight against death demanded sincerity. And with that in mind, the most difficult step was still to come, he had to face his wife with the truth.

THE WIFE’S REACTION

That night he was finally able to find the courage to tell his wife that he had AIDS. “She looked at me from head to toe and asked me ‘from who?’. I could not give any explanation but even through all of this, she accepted me…but it was then that the problems started…” he recalls.

From then on, Blas had to deal with a large scale of discrimination. The worst being, though it seems unfathomable, the discrimination he recieved from his own siblings. One blessing in all of it, however, was the attitude that his wife took on through out this whole time.

“My brothers and sisters got together and went to my wife. They said, ‘We are going to do the following: we will pay you a salary to live on so that Blas can go live way out in the country. This way no one will know that he has AIDS and we, in turn, will not have to be ashamed.’ My wife responded, ‘No, he is my husband, and he will die here in my arms and in the arms of his daughter. If you want to help, go ahead, but if not, fine. May God bless you.’ But even to this day they have not even lifted a hand to help me”. A light at the end of the tunnel finally appeared when a friend came bringing the wonderful news of Gods love for him.

AIDS TODAY

Blas Arevalos arrived at High Refuge Ministry, AMAR, and there he found a job fighting against all the bad that comes along with the HIV virus. Unfortunately, he realized that his dream of no longer seeing anymore children being infected with HIV/AIDS was a far away goal. The news that he received daily was not the most encouraging. Right from the beginning, he frequently heard requests like these: “Blas, pray for us because I’m going to get the test results of my child – please pray that they will not have the AIDS virus.” Many kids to this day are still being born withHIV/AIDS.

What is worse is that kids are left behind as orphans when their mothers die from the virus. “Sometimes the pastor calls us and says “Fulana died, and we have to give the child up for adoption…” The statistics are alarming as well: out of every ten persons that are infected with HIV/AIDS, three of those are children.

Continuing with his story:

From then on, Blas’ faith is what won the battles against the sickness that was invading his body. “Medically speaking, because of the effect the virus already had in my body, they gave me about six months to live. And that was seven years ago.”

The main reason the doctors only gave him a few months to live was because he had become very thin and fragile, and this came about through anorexia. Before they detected the HIV virus in him, he had been on a diet to lose the 97 kilos that he wanted to get rid of. He tried many different methods, but couldn’t lose the weight. So he simply just stopped eating.

“I only ate a plate of lettuce for breakfast and then a little yogurt and a glass of water, the whole day long”, he says.

He lost 50 kilos in two months, but his condition became worse than just losing the desired weight loss. He recalls: “When they took me to the doctor the first thing he said was that I had the body of an anorexic. It had gotten to the point that if I ate three teaspoons of vegetable soup, for some reason I could not even keep that down, and would throw it all up.”

Because he was not seeing any results with the medication and the tests were not giving them any answers, the doctors started to suspect that he had something more serious. They took him to the Institute of Cancer to see if he had leukemia or any other kind of cancer. There was nothing. They took him to Max Boettner Hospital, to see if he had problems with his lungs, but nothing came out of that, and the test for tuberculosis was also negative. Finally, a Peruvian doctor, his neighbor, told him that he wanted to give him the test Elisa. “Then I said: ‘Doctor, here we will have a surprise’ Why? Because I knew the truth that I had kept hidden. I knew the road that I had been walking on”. Blas could not keep deceiving himself. When he finally realized that he had AIDS all the memories of his errant past came rushing back and he felt the weight of the consequences of his actions.

THE DISCRIMINATION

When Blas Arevalos chose to live, he did not know what was ahead of him. He realized that the only true friends that remained by his side through it all could be counted on the 5 fingers of one hand. “The moment they realized that I had AIDS, the telephone at home stopped ringing, and my friends stopped coming by to visit”. But the rejection extended to more than just his friends. From his ten siblings, only one of them didn’t reject him. “The rest of them didn’t want me to come near their house, nor that I touch their children. It was complete discrimination…they even went as far as throwing stones at me.”

His only source of strength and reason to live came from his wife and daughter. Shortly after he got the results of his analysis, his daughter had a birthday.

“That morning I picked her up and kissed her, and said ‘God, let me see my daughter reach her 15th birthday.’ And God did not let me down. He was faithful, because last year we celebrated her 15 years of life. There was no party, and I could give her nothing because I was without work. Though there was no gift there was a lot of affection.” The weight of poverty and the lack of a job on the day his dream came true to see his daughter reach 15 years remains burned in the memory of Blas. On that special morning he woke up early, went, and hugged her in silence.

“I knew that she also had not slept, waiting for that morning. Affectionately, she told me, ‘Dad, I want a present’.

I said, ‘Laura, we’ve already talked about this, there is no money’.

And she said to me, ‘Dad, what do you want for the future?’

‘But what future can a person with AIDS have??’

And she said to me ‘Dad, God is with us, remember that, we are in His hands.’

Thanks to the words of his daughter in the morning of her 15th birthday, Blas, spurred on by the youthful valiance of his daughter, decided to devote his life to a permanent vocation of service. From then on he has given educational talks about the prevention of HIV/AIDS in elementary schools, high schools, parks and even town squares. He tells his testimony to young people and adults whether young or old. “One of my dreams is to see that no more children will be infected with AIDS”, he says. It is one of the responses to what his daughter asked him… what he wants for the future.

SEEING HIS GRANDCHILDREN

Blas has now had victory over AIDS for 7 years. They have been 7 miraculous years of life mixed with anguish, dreams, hope and love. One of his dreams, to see his daughter reach 15 years of life, was already fulfilled. With faith, he has become even more bold… he has even more hopes.

His voice breaks when he confesses his most desired dream, and tears fill his eyes. “I want to see my grandchildren. I want to feel their skin, see their faces, feel that they are an extension of me through my daughter”, he says.

He does not know if this dream will ever come true because, he confesses, his last analysis did not give him much hope. “I’m a little bit worse off than the first time, but I keep trusting in God – I cling to Him”, he adds. He doesn’t give up, even while being confronted once again with the reality that he must let the consequences of his earlier choices run their course. He keeps marching forward.

One of the things he accomplished in the struggle to fight against the evil that comes along with the AIDS virus, is to give educational and awareness talks. He prepared himself and started his educational talks. His goal was to have his testimony reach at least 1,000 persons. Blas smiles when telling about how he has already been able to reach more than 12,000 people. “And, it looks like there will be more because the lost keep coming. I talk in any church too – I don’t make an exception. I like the work that I do because it helps me feel free.” The decision to take his testimony to whoever wanted to hear it, was born one Sunday in his house while at the table with his wife and daughter. He told his wife that he wanted to share his testimony to the people and he asked what they thought of it. His wife told him that she was in favor, but that she couldn’t speak for her daughter. When he asked Laura, his daughter cheerily responded: “That’s my dad!” “So I said, ‘Ok God, I will do your will.’”

When Blas first started, he was in classrooms with about 23 people. Now, the groups he gives his testimony to hold up 250 people or more. “I was in town squares packed with people. Sometimes I felt like a mouse among lions. I just offer my testimony of what happened when I lived a lifestyle with no boundaries. I also share about the terrible discrimination that we, the people infected with HIV/AIDS, have to live with” he tells.

Thanks to his close relationship with God, he is dedicated to righting past wrongs, and attempting to mend some of his errors. He went to his siblings and his father, but they did not want to listen to him. “Nobody wants to know anything about me”, he says. But he is happy that he has done his part. Day after day he keeps battling death. When he starts to get weak, his wife and daughter support him. His faith and his family are his biggest motivation to live. “The rest I leave in the hands of God”, he says.

Blas Arevalos left us and walked into Glory on February 25 at 44 years of age. While he was never able to see his grandchildren here on earth, we know that he is celebrating with Jesus, and surely waiting for the day when they can all praise Him together in Heaven. We thank God for the work that was done in his life, the testimony he left behind, and the mark of love that was left not only on his wife and daughter, but on Alto Refugio itself.

 

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